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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Digital transformation for public education

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Over the last few years, big steps to enhance the country’s public educational system have been implemented, from the K to 12 program that raised the standard with two years and “strands” to basic education and even making tertiary education at state universities and colleges free.

At the recently held Department of Education National Information and Communications Technology Summit, attended by some 700 ICT experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders, a new ICT roadmap was unveiled, which is expected to even further transform the landscape of education in the country.

The roadmap is consistent with moves to fast-track the digital transformation of the Philippine public-school system. During the launch, DepEd Secretary Leonor M. Briones said ICT can be a game-changer both inside the classroom and the agency’s bureaucracy.

For one, she said, school textbooks may well be rendered obsolete by innovations in the field of ICT. The sight of young children carrying heavy backpacks filled with textbooks can be a thing of the past with the introduction of digital—and lightweight—learning materials.

“I don’t think we can survive without ICT. We will surely go back to the dark ages if we ignore ICT. It is primarily a tool which helps us in making decisions, in understanding the world that we live in, and in finding solutions,” Briones said.

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In the area of pedagogy, ICT will enable teachers to devise teaching methods and strategies that will better instill creativity and critical thinking among learners. According to education experts, technology can make learning collaborative and interactive via augmented, virtual, and mixed reality. Used strategically, these can create immersive lessons that are fun and engaging.

Another revolutionary trend is so-called gamification, in which classrooms utilize gaming as an instructional tool. Gaming technology is particularly useful when it comes to difficult subject matter.

At the DepEd, easily one of the biggest bureaucracy in the country, ICT can greatly help make bureaucratic operations efficient, transparent and cost effective to the benefit of teachers, students and the all education stakeholders.

“DepEd is a mammoth institution and with thousands of teaching and non-teaching personnel, technology may serve as an essential tool not just in teaching, but also in governance. We’re going to overhaul the information system of the entire Department—the financial management system, accounting system, budget system, and all other processes.”

Its digital transformation framework highlights four key areas where ICT can be applied. These are teaching and learning, communication, governance planning and decision making, and process and operations.

DepED Director for ICT Service Abram Abanil discussed an impressive roadmap for the Department’s ICT Systems until 2020. The focus will be the modernization of existing systems, core processes, education systems and key projects such as the Microsoft Country License which will empower a system wide adoption of cloud services, and that includes access for all public-school teachers and students.

Undersecretary Alain Del B. Pascua presented an even more impressive ICT infrastructure roadmap to envisioned to give sufficient access to the most practical and appropriate technologies and connectivity to the Internet.

In synch with all these programs, Pascua hopes to introduce coding and robotics in the curriculum to prepare students for the information age. He sees the need to introduce cybersecurity, ethical hacking, and data protection, as there is a high demand for cloud security specialists and data protection specialists. Recognizing the need for more government support in policy and resources he expressed openness to Public Private Partnerships as an option for implementing the various components of the ICT roadmap.

The next challenge for DepEd is to institutionalize the integration of ICT in teaching so that K to 12 graduates will be ready for an environment that will need knowledge workers.

Indeed, these radical transformations will require massive retooling for teachers and DepEd personnel, especially those from a generation far removed from the digital boom in the 1990s and onwards.

But as it is, the pace of digitization has to keep up. Currently, only 27 percent of schools are connected to the Internet, which DepEd intends to change. In 2018, the target is to connect some 30,000 schools in eight pilot regions (CAR, 2, 8, 10, Caraga, ARMM, 4B). By 2019, the target is to connect all schools to the DepEd WAN. By 2022, all schools should be connected to the Internet.

The department also hopes to develop and create an Innovation Hub in high schools, or an ICT incubation hub in science high schools for research and development. These are envisioned to be centers for robotics and research and development and thus will be equipped with the latest technology, a computer lab, and an electronics lab. With these hubs all over the country, they are expected to focus on local, community-level problems, while tertiary ICT programs are geared toward global competition and specialization.

These developments and more can guarantee that ICT does what it does best—provide quick and efficient solutions to real-life problems. All of us should pitch in to make this happen.

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